Colorado dinosaur discovery – Diplodocus

Diplodocus skeleton
Casts of the Diplodocus skeleton at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum of Natural History were given by founder Andrew Carnegie to museums throughout the world. | Photo by Scott Robert Anselmo /


The first skeleton of the gigantic, plant-eating Diplodocus was found in Garden Park near Cañon City in 1877 by S.W. Williston, a field worker for paleontologist Othniel Marsh. Marsh named the dinosaur in 1878.

The Diplodocus is similar in build to the Supersaurus, with four stout legs to support the main part of the body, plus a long neck with a small skull. But it was slimmer and had an extraordinarily long tail.

A typical Diplodocus was 90 feet long, half of which was tail, and weighed 10 to 18 tons.

Paleontologists theorize that the tail balanced the neck, working much as a suspension bridge does. Others believe the tail could function as a whip for defensive purposes, noting evidence showing that it coexisted with the meat-eating Allosaurus and Ceratosaurus.

The Diplodocus, which lived in the Jurassic period, is well-known because industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie donated mounted skeletal casts to 10 museums worldwide and author James A. Michener wrote a chapter about the Diplodocus in his book “Centennial” about Colorado’s history.